"Thank you, Egon."
Egon smiled as he poured the tea for Janine. He placed the cup and saucer before her on the table, noticing how her hands trembled now, how white her hair had gotten, how frail she was. He moved a little closer to her and covered her hands with his.
"Are your hands hurting?"
She smiled at him, a smile that never failed to warm him. "Not when you hold them."
He smiled back at her and tenderly took her in his arms. Forty years of marriage had not dimmed the love he had felt for her since he first met her. It had been love at first sight for both of them, although as awkward as he had been, he didn't quite know how to acknowledge it. It took him eight years--and a supernatural crisis--to tell her he loved her, and two more years to finally marry her.
Twins arrived four years later, their only children. Through all the changes over the years, through marriage, childbirth, retirement, declining health, their love held fast. The twilight was descending upon them both, but to him, she was as beautiful and beloved as ever.
"I love you so much," he whispered.
"I love you too," she replied. "Since the moment I met you, I knew you were the one I wanted to spend my life with."
They leaned into each other's embrace for a long time, then Egon reached for his cup. "Tea's getting cold," he remarked as he handed her hers.
She took it carefully, not spilling a drop. "To us."
"I spoke to Peter today," Egon remarked as he and Janine got ready for bed.
"How's he doing?"
"He's doing much better now." He paused. "We were all hit hard, of course, but Peter..."
"He's always been more sensitive than he let on," Janine remarked. "And to lose Winston so soon after Dana..."
"Yes." It had been no surprise; they were all getting on in years. Even Ray, the youngest of them, was feeling the pull of time's passing. He'd been bouncy and youthful well into his late fifties, now he looked like Santa Claus. Egon smiled at the mental picture.
But the shock of losing close friends and family members was not lessened by the fact that they'd lived long lives. His smile faded as he recalled Winston. The eldest member of the team had been diagnosed with stomach cancer; slowly his powerful frame withered until a sad shell was left. Winston never despaired, however. His faith had seen him through Vietnam, Gozer, the death of his wife. Though his physical strength left him, his beliefs saw him through until the end. Knowing that Winston was at total peace when he died eased the loss somewhat, but Winston's passing had definitely closed a chapter in all of their lives.
Egon looked up from his contemplation to see Janine move over to him and put her arms around him. The embrace said all that needed to be said.
Egon awoke and looked at the clock. 4:15 AM. He glanced at his wife, her head resting on his shoulder.
Something wasn't right. He caressed her cool cheek. She didn't stir at all. He took her pulse, checked her breathing. Nothing. She was gone, and had obviously been for some time.
Egon leaned back against the pillow, tears leaking from his eyes. He picked up the phone at his bedside and pressed the first button on the speed dial.
It was answered after the first ring. That didn't surprise Egon; he knew his friend's insomnia had gotten worse over the years.
"Peter, Janine's died," his voice emerged as a ragged croak.
"I'll call Ray; we're coming over." The phone clicked. Egon held the phone a moment longer, then replaced it in its cradle.
He gazed at Janine. She had passed away peacefully in her sleep; for that he was grateful. Her pain was gone, she was on the Other Side.
Egon's thoughts turned inward. His long life had shown him many things. The love of his wife and children and the close friendship he had formed with Peter, Ray and Winston--more like brothers than friends--had taught him far more than he had ever learned in academia.
His eyes drifted closed as he recalled life's lessons. From Ray he'd learned to embrace life and all it offered, from Winston he'd learned a deep and abiding spirituality, from Peter he'd learned not to take everything so seriously, from Janine he'd learned unconditional love. From all of them, he'd learned trust and friendship. The declining years had only strengthened the bonds they'd formed. Egon was completely at peace with himself, his life, his Maker.
A light shone in the distance, growing closer and brighter. He looked on, filled with hope and fascination. A figure approached him.
Janine. As beautiful as the day he met her. No longer troubled by age or arthritis, her fiery red hair flowed over youthful shoulders. Her unlined, untroubled face beamed at him in a welcoming smile.
Egon paused a moment to take this all in, then walked towards her, every step becoming easier, age and pain receding into nothingness. He took her hand as they faced the Other Side together.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.
A time to be born, and a time to die...a time to mourn and a time to dance.
--Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, 4 (KJV)
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